This research paper attempts to study the political, social and cultural environment which led to the holocaust. We will also briefly explore the Nazi policies of exclusion. Finally, we will look at the atrocities meted out to the prisoners in the concentration camps.
Long before Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, eugenic scientists were conducting experiments to prove the inequality of humans. These research were not restricted to Germany but were worldwide. Tests conducted in the United States "proved" that class, race and ethnic differences "reflected intelligence.2 These research results were not only accepted by the scientific community but also influenced the policy makers. In United States, "inferior races and ethnic groupswere prohibited from entering the country."3 Solution to the "problem" of the "feebleminded individuals who already resided in the United States" ranged from putting them in "permanent custodial care" to sterilization.4
Eugenics eventually lost acceptance in the United States but in Germany, following the coming to power of the Nazi party, eugenic scientists began to enjoy political support. Hitler wanted to build a utopian German society. Such a society would be "racially homogenous, physically hardy and mentally healthy".5 To achieve this utopia, Germany followed a policy of exclusion and the killing operations were the final stage of this policy. Eugenics introduced the idea of human inequality and the Nazi policies institutionalized it. The groups excluded included the physically handicapped, intellectually retarded, mentally disturbed and, eventually, the racially alien people. By 1939, Hitler abandoned his policy of exclusion and started discussing "implementation of what he called euthanasia".6
The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) better known as the Nazi party was founded on January 5 1919. Hitler joined the NSDAP on September 16 1919.7 His inspirational leadership and oratorical skills saw him become the chairman of the party by July 1921. Germany's defeat in the World War I and signing of the Treaty of Versailles which put the sole responsibility of the "war guilt" on the Germans was humiliating for the defeated nation. This along with the depression of 1929 and the inability of Germans to come to terms with the resulting hardships saw the Nazi party get 37 percent of the votes in 1932 elections.8 Thus on January 30, 1933, Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany. On February 27 1933, a mysterious fire in the Reichstag building destroyed the German "Parliament". The next day the German President, Paul von Hindenburg declared emergency. The emergency, along with the "Enabling Act, or Law for the Removal of the Distress of the People and Reich, would allow Hitler torule Germany as a dictator."9
Between 1933 and 1935, the German government enacted various laws to remove Jews from public life and to revoke their citizenship.10 From April 1, 1933, the Nazi Government started a countrywide boycott of Jewish businesses. This and other policies between 1933 and 1938 were aimed at forcing the German Jews to emigrate from Germany. However, the policies failed due to reluctance of many German Jews to leave their